Cookie Artistry

The latest trend in cookie decorating is stenciling. Stenciling on cookies is a quick and easy way of adding a pretty design to simple cookies. There are lots of beautiful designs that will allow your creativity free rein. And remember — don’t let fear of imperfection get in the way of having fun!

To begin with you will need to bake and cool your cookies. Here is one of our favorite sugar cookie recipes:

Toba’s Sugar Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) margarine

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cream margarine and sugar in your mixer bowl, scraping the sides of the bowl, if necessary. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well combined. Add the flour one cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Dough will be stiff.

Divide dough in half and roll out on a silicone mat; cut the cookies and lift the scraps. Never move the cookies; cookies that are lifted and moved to a pan will inevitably be misshapen. Rolling out dough on a silicone mat will prevent this. Slide the Silpat right onto a sheet pan and bake in the preheated oven.

Bake the cookies 8–10 minutes or until they are lightly browned at the edges. Remove and allow to cool 10 minutes. Place the cookies on a rack to continue cooling. Wait for cookies to be completely cooled before decorating.

Then you will need 1 recipe Royal Icing.

Royal Icing:

3 tablespoons meringue powder

3–4 cups (about 1 lb.) confectioners’ sugar

5 tablespoons warm water

Yield: 3 cups of icing

Begin by flooding your cookies with royal icing. Let them dry overnight.

Put aside remaining icing in an airtight container. Make your stenciling icing a little bit thicker than flood icing by adding some more confectioners’ sugar. When you drag a knife through the surface of the icing, it should still hold its shape. Add a few drops of food color to the remaining icing and stir thoroughly to combine.

Place your stencil on the dry iced cookie. Work with one cookie at a time. With one hand, hold the stencil firmly against the cookie top. Check to make sure the stencil is still lying flush against the cookie top coat in all areas. You can also place small round magnets above and below the stencil outside the cookie to hold it in place. See photo so you know how to properly position the magnets.

With the other hand, use a small offset spatula to spread a very thin layer of icing over the openings in the stencil. The icing should not be applied any thicker than the depth of the stencil, or you’ll leave peaks in the icing when you lift off the stencil. However, be sure to apply enough icing so you can’t see through to the top coat. Some cookie decorators use an old credit card to spread the icing on the stencil. Play around a bit with different tools to see which suits you best.

Most important: Do not move the stencil while applying the icing or the resulting pattern will be blurry.

Lift the stencil slowly and steadily off the cookie; then wipe any icing off the bottom of the stencil before proceeding to the next cookie. For the sharpest patterns, wash and thoroughly dry the stencil after every two or three cookies. Do not rub the stencil dry, or you can damage the stencil. Instead, lay it flat between sheets of paper towels and gently pat dry.

You can also use color mist or diluted paste or powder food color (To dilute paste or powder colors:)

and a stenciling brush to fill in a stencil. Place the stencil on the cookie in the same manner as directed above. For spray: Hold the spray approximately 12 inches away from the cookie and spray lightly back and forth. Do not over-spray or the color will run under the stencil. Carefully remove the stencil and allow the food color to dry.

Using clear alcohol such as vodka or pure lemon extract, combine 1/2 teaspoon liquid with the color. Mix gently with the dust to get the desired texture. For a more opaque finish, use more color and less liquid. For a sheer wash, use more liquid.